OSHA Offers Tips on Working Safely in Hot Weather

July 9, 2009
Those hot, hazy days of summer are here. The heat especially can be harmful for those who work outdoors in direct sunlight or in hot environments, making them susceptible to heat-induced illnesses such as heat stress, heat exhaustion or the more serious heat stroke.

"Working in extreme temperatures is not only uncomfortable, it can be life-threatening," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. "As we move into the summer months, it is important for workers and their employers to minimize the chances of heat-induced illnesses, and imperative that they recognize the signs of heat stress and take proper precautions to reduce the chances of illness or death."

High temperature and humidity, physical exertion and lack of sufficient water intake can lead to heat-related stress. Symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke include confusion, irrational behavior, loss of consciousness, abnormally high body temperature and hot, dry skin.

OSHA advises workers to take preventive measures such as reducing physical exertion and wearing light, loose-fitting clothing. The agency advises employers to provide workers with water and regular rest periods in a cool recovery area.

"Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat" and "Working Outdoors in Warm Climates" are OSHA fact sheets that explain heat stress and provide recommendations to protect workers from exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Employers and workers will find more practical tips for guarding against UV radiation in "Protecting Yourself in the Sun," a pocket-sized card addressing various forms of skin cancer. These publications are free and can be downloaded from OSHA's Publications page at http://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/publication.html.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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